Vampire: the Convoluted
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Vampire: the Convoluted
This is a primer for V:tM for people who arent familiar with it. A lot of this will be about how convoluted the background is, how the generation trait doesnt make any sense, and everything you wanted to know about the Sabbat, which Montreal by Night primarily concerns. A lot of this background will help reinforce how much this book makes no sense mechanically too.
WW cant really decide when history begins but the main thing seems to be that the Bible is right. This is incredibly ironic because most the people who play WW games are militant atheists and have been reading Biblical fanfiction for years. God created Adam and Eve, Lucifer and all that, and then Caine and Abel, which is the premise of Masquerade. For those of you who dont know, Caine and Abel were the Goofus and Gallant sons of Adam and Eve after they learned shame. Caine ended up committing the first act of murder by beating his brother to death with a big rock because God liked Abels sacrifice better. God then cursed Caine with vampirism, which is the mark of Caine mentioned in the Bible and used by racists for centuries as a basis for hating brown peoples. Caine wanders around for centuries, has some hijinks with Lilith, his dads demon ex-wife, and then settles down. He then embraces three people, who are the 2nd Generation. These three then sire at least 13 childer, who are the 3rd generation. The trend here is that Caine is the first vampire and the 1st generation , the only one at that. The 3rd gen by the way are called the Antediluvians. Antediluvians for those who arent up with their classical Biblical language, they are from before Noahs flood. As you go up in generation, the less powerful you are. Caines powers are never exactly described but they are close to godlike and he cant die because God wont let him. His children were incredibly powerful but they could die. The 3rd gen, who show up during Gehenna, can use level 10 disciplines, which I will get to in the next section. Gehenna is the vampire apocalypse by the way. The 3rd gen by the way hated Caine and killed, this is up for debate, his kids. Caine has been doing the Bruce Banner thing ever since. This is all right before classical Western civilization springs up. This all focuses on the Mediterranean region too. It all continues with vampires influencing Rome, Carthage, the Germanic barbarians, and into the dark ages where the majority of the vampiric population is 8th to 9th generation by the 13th century.
Generation and You! : or Why it Doesnt Make Any Sense
As you see above, there are 13 generations. There are actually 15 but 14 and 15 arent really true vampires and are dealt with in a book tied to Gehenna. Does anyone see something wrong with this picture? In the span of over 5,000 years, there are only 13 generations of vampires. Vampires dont usually live for thousands of years too. Most vampires only live for a couple hundred years at most and usually have childer within that time. There are also about 1 vampire for every 100,000 humans, which is a number WW gave us to sperg out about supernatural populations. By the numbers without sperging out myself, they should have hit 15 well before the 20th century if there were only 13 3rd gens. Anyways, the lower your generation, the better you are, the more blood you can use, and you have access to better disciplines, which are vampire powers if youre still clueless at this point.
EDIT: There is also diablerie, where a vampire consumes the soul of a vampire of lower generation and goes down a step in generation. This is rare and is an act that can get you destroyed in most the factions except under certain circumstances. It's also hard to do because you have to drain a vampire dry and then take his soul which costs humanity and sometimes a point in a path other than humanity. Paths other than humanity are detailed in Montreal by Night btw.
Now the Sabbat
The Sabbat for those who dont know are vampire survivalists. They believe that the end times are coming, which they are, and that the 3rd generation of vampires are secretly controlling the world in preparation for their big come back, which they are. Theyre more like the vampires in Near Dark and the Lost Boys. They wear a lot of leather, travel around like nomads, and terrorize small towns. They also incidentally look like this guy a lot of times.
Back around the start of the Renaissance, when the Protestant Reformation was raging and Europe was enveloped with heresies like vernacular Bibles and priests marrying women instead of just keeping mistresses like the Pope. The Inquisition begins to realize that there are a lot vampires out there and starts cracking down. The elders, in order to cover this up start embracing childer to throw to the Inquisition so they lose the elders trail. These kids dont really like whats going on and rise up, which was the thing to do at that time if you felt dispossessed. The Brujah lead this, primarily one named Tyler who lives in Chicago at the time of Montreal by Night btw, and the revolution eventually begins to destroy itself as well as the elders. At the end, theres a big treaty, which you can watch in the Transylvania Chronicles adventure series. The Camarilla is formed which are the boardroom vampires and the Sabbat who are the vampiric equivalent of militant Diggers or a messed up Catholic vampire version of the Ikkō-ikki. The Anarchs still live on as a group that didnt sign the treaty but theyre stupid, dont matter overall, and are about as anarchist as a teenage punk rock fan. The Camarilla are largely well to do Elders and their childer. Sabbat are supposed to be mostly lower gen vampires. This will come up later.
The Sabbat use a lot of rituals based on Catholic rites. The political hierarchy of the Sabbat is based on Catholic religious hierarchy. Bishops rule smaller cities or help out Archbishops like a Seneschal. Bishops serve Archbishops who rule larger cities and small regions. Cardinals rule larger regions or countries. Sabbat vampires travel in packs and keep each other loyal by all of them bleeding into a bowl and drinking it, giving themselves mutual blood bonds. They generally regard humans as cattle and hate elders in the same fashion that angsty teens hate adults, authority figures, and their parents. They have some festivals too where they engage in communal blood drinking and other debauchery. They are mostly Lasombra, Tzimisce, and Antitribu clans, which are dark versions of the other 11 clans and originally the Tremere. They have a lot of rules, about as many as the Camarilla, but most the time they turn out like the Manson family or over the top serial killers. They refer to themselves as Cainites and they have factions as well. The primary form of embrace for the Sabbat is to go around with a shovel, hit people over the head, bury them in the ground, and then if they claw their way out, they get to be cannon fodder. If they survive that, they get to join a pack. This causes lower gen vampires to create more lower gen vampires. The Sabbat has been doing this since the Anarch Revolt if memory serves me correctly.
Factions: Kind of Like Cliques in High School
The Black Hand is like the SS of the Sabbat. Theyre the truest believers and are the elite guard of the revolution. They do a lot of commando type stuff and look down on vampires that arent members. Theyre super selective later on but not at the time of this book. They were also originally a front for the True Hand in Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand.
Ironically, the Sabbat has an inquisition organization. They generally hunt down infernalists and the few vampires that worship Lilith. They dont like anyone because they have to keep everyone in line.
Surprisingly, the Sabbat isnt big on Satan or demons. These guys secretly are and reap the rewards of demonic pacts. Theyre pretty rare but there are some in Montreal if Im remembering correctly.
Montreal by Night: un sacré d'une ville
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Montreal by Night: un sacré d'une ville
As a preface to this, Montreal is a Sabbat stronghold. There are three in total within North America. They are Montreal, Mexico City, and Miami. To be a Sabbat city pretty much means that your city is a shithole. Not only is crime and society so bad there that people don’t notice several variations of the Manson family living there. You also have to account for the other shit that probably lives there and the evil spirits called Banes. Here is a map from that era so you can see the field.
In the book they make references to the Anarch Free State, which is California, and L.A. which is the seat of Anarch power. The Sabbat made a push into there around the time of the Rodney King Riots, which goes to show that yet again mortals don’t do anything in the Old World of Darkness. They don't say that they started them but they imply it. They do the same for Watts in the LA book.
I don’t know much about Montreal either. I know they primarily speak French, it’s along the St. Lawrence River, the Canadiens, and that Canadians have told me that it’s seen as one of the rougher cities in Canada. I don’t know what that means as an American who lives in Florida, where crime is pretty bad. Now in the WoD where it’s worse, I imagine the Quebecois are a bit gruffer when you don’t speak French, the Canadiens fans are rowdier, the clerk at Hortons isn’t as nice, there are more peelers, and the line for healthcare is longer than it already is. We’ll find out along the way though.
Back in 2nd edition, they used to have art like this after the title page with some pretentious quote. Usually it’s something like a chess piece or something but this time someone really hated Iggy Pop.
The prelude is an anonymous letter to Cardinal Strathcona.
Apparently someone whacked a guy named Zhou who was active in Montreal. He was apparently into Taoism and was murdered. They talk about a bunch of stuff with Taoism and the city but it’s vague. They’re more worried about the killers.
This is a Black Dog Games book, which is the “Adult” line of White Wolf books. Yes that does mean more tits and sex but also that it’s as edgy and tasteful as a book of dead baby jokes.
Most of the introduction is the typical detailing of moods and themes which seems more pretentious than usual. I think because it’s 2nd edition and as time goes on, they do get better as a company. That is the future though, this is now. They detail the city and the power structure. The city is run by Carolina Valez, the Archbishop of Montreal.
Yeah, that’s her portrait in the book. There’s a running trend in the portraits of the female npc’s that I’m going to detail in the “Covens” section. A lot of this book will be an art critique because I’m not going to regurgitate a travel guide for Montreal by someone who has probably never been there. Valez is clinging to power as the book takes place. As someone who has played the card game, I know she gets ousted by someone in this book but that’s not in this book. She is supported by “The Rose”
She looks kind of like Helena Bonham Carter playing Edward Scissorhands. She heads the Widows, who are Cathari. Her pack essentially exalts in corruption, perversion, and cruelty to a level not seen since a description within a 90’s industrial band’s cd insert. Oddly though, she’s one of the few vampires not shown holding onto her naked tits.
One of her two rivals is Ezekial, who as you can see looks like a young Sean Bean. He’s the childe of Sangris, who we’ll talk about later but he was an infernalist who used to run the city. He’s apparently a young turk who represents “the bloodlust of many young Sabbat”. He wants to break away from his sire’s dark legacy. This most likely entails regular murder and debauchery not in some demon’s name.
That last is Alfred Benezri, who is Bishop of the city. He is the status quo candidate because he represents the interests of the Sabbat elders and is all into scholarly pursuits. He’s a Pander, a clanless Sabbat vampire. Being clanless is kind of like being a bastard in a Song of Ice and Fire. You’re given a clan fill in but it’s not a real clan. He also knows thaumaturgy which is something that will be discussed in the “Covens” section. His faction is still riding the shame of putting Sangris into power back in the day. I’m sure you can forgive them because it’s hard to tell in the Sabbat if someone is one and a large amount of Satanic paraphernalia just means they’re less likely to be an infernalist.
He becomes the Archbishop. Montreal is revisited in an end times lead up book.
History of Blood: Not That Bad
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History of Blood: Not That Bad
Well, except for that
This section is the history section and the jist of it is that the Sabbat had a strong presence there while the Camarilla tried to remain in power. There was also a powerful demon named Metathiax who got set up there after one of his followers set off with Cartier to explore the region. Eventually after the British take over, Strathcona the guy from before is made the Prince because he was I assume a Jacobite. They don’t say this outright but I assume that the writer didn’t know what a Jacobite was because he sounds like one. He’s also sent by Mithras, the Prince of London. I might add that Mithras remains Prince until Gehenna too which is the vampiric equivalent to being Strom Thurmond. He ends up betraying the Camarilla because oddly enough a guy on shakey ideological ground who hates the English isn’t a good candidate for leader of a remote and mostly foreign, English hating colony.
Oh no he didn’t!
Eventually the Sabbat take over whole sale and have been a blight on the region ever since. Over time, Strathcona becomes a Cardinal and they fight off some werewolves in the 19th century and some Haitian Setites in the 20th century. During the Setite war, Sangris shows up. He’s a Serpent of the Light who are Followers of Set Antribu. They’re all into voodoo and the loas. Sangris teamed up with the demon to destroy the Setites and became Archbishop. Sangris is eventually found out and killed by the Inquisition though his accomplices escaped because he flat out admitted his guilt and said he acted alone. There’s also a subplot involving the Inquisitor but it’s really stupid and convoluted about Sangris and his soul. Apparently Sangris planned this because he was bound to another demon and if he died in Montreal he would be in contention. Valez becomes the Archbishop after Strathcona appoints her and she’s been in power for a year or two.
This section is pretty straightforward and the art is pretty average. It’s really not that much different from most the books and Mexico City by Night is pretty similar in not being too over the top.
Montreal is pretty much like regular Montreal but darker. They aren’t really too specific, they really just talk about more opportunities to prey on the youth and debauchery but don’t go into much detail. The demon Methathiax exerts his influence from the mountain and influences things subtly there. Most shovelheads that are put into the ground there don’t come back either except for one who is dealt with in the “Covens” section. This is because the demon sucks them back into the mountain so the Sabbat understandably doesn’t do the ritual there anymore. This is kind of cool and interesting. There’s a Black Spiral Dancer who worships Metathiax but he’s just in a sidebar. They mention that the werewolves control the outlands, which is normal in OWoD, and that the Shadow Lords might aid the Tremere from Quebec City in retaking the city. The werewolves pretty much gave up on the city proper because of the demon and the fact that they were partly responsible for the demise of the natives there when they tried to push Metathiax out and failed.
Now for the real good part of this section, the art!
As seen in the Matrix.
The city’s homeless youth in their torn soiled fishnets plague many an honest vampire entrepreneur. (Also, I have no idea who that is supposed to be because no vampire in the city looks remotely normal.)
I imagine there’s a scene that looks just like this somewhere in the former Eastern Bloc right now.
He barely escaped that Ministry show alive.
All and all, these two chapters were pretty boring.
Undead Life: I Wish This Was the High Water Mark
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: I Wish This Was the High Water Mark
Nothing but the dulcet crooning of Billy Corgan can soothe my dark caged soul.
This chapter gets into the nitty gritty of the Sabbat’s day to day life. The Sabbat in Montreal openly operates like really showy serial killers. One of the former archbishops named Veronique La Cruelle used to make every kill a big display from 1935-1975. Let that sink in for a second, in Canada no less. One of the packs liked to hang decapitated corpses from overpasses and watch the multicar pileups that resulted. One of the games in the city is to pick out a guy from a crowd of drunk people, kill him when he goes away alone and then to smear his blood on his friends while they flirt with them. They also play other games like movie night where they re-enact movies like a Rocky Horror Picture Show performance, dominate drivers into not knowing how to drive, dig up the recently deceased and put them in their old homes, and take one of the vampires, Toy for a walk. Toy is a limbless Samedi, who have the power to wither away people, whom they dress up like a baby and have him maul people who come up to look. I want to imagine something along the lines of the Wire but with everyone speaking with bad Canadian accents but this is Montreal so it would probably be in French.
The chapter then details the packs and the political intrigue.
Valez’s pack the Lost Angels control the mortal powerbrokers in the city and Valez has some Grimaldi revenants. Revenants are ghouls who are born ghouled and naturally regain their spent blood. The Tzimisce usually breed and maintain them since they have an obsession with genetics. Oh yeah, this is how she keeps her mortal powerbroker retainers in line,
“And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
That quote is from me, it doesn’t appear in this book. Instead the pack get this quote in the “Coven’s” section.
The Bible is for losers. So anyways, Caine beget
25:17 is the main Black Hand pack. Their leader is Ezekial, a Serpent of the Light sired by an infernalist, a vampire who shouldn’t even be a member of the Hand according to Caine’s Chosen by his clan alone, not even accounting for his infernalist sire.
He really tries to make up for his damning background by subscribing to an extreme and radical Sabbat ideology, aka ultra violence.
The Shepherds are the traditionalists and they are big on education, having access to a library of arcane vampire lore. They‘re supported by the Librarians, a pack who maintain the library. They also have the gay vote with the Queens of Mercy, an all homosexual pack. The Shepherds are big into the Catholic Church and corrupting the priests but there aren’t any mentions of children. Sinead O’Conner really was ahead of her time I guess.
The Canadian branch of the Camarilla is very much the Washington Generals to the Montreal Sabbat’s Harlem Globetrotters. The Camarilla tried to push the Sabbat out in 1970 when federal troops were in the city and the Quebec City Tremere have been pushing but they all don’t seem to do much. The Sabbat of Montreal seem like they would be ridiculously easy to find and take out. I would say this is sad but Montreal’s vampires are ridiculously op and overpopulated, which will be the main focus of the “Covens” section.
Long story short, there’s a couple still active. The demon can also ride in the bodies of those buried in the mountain after he consumes their souls. The guy who brought him to the New World got embraced and buried in the mountain and now Metathiax inhabits his body when he wants to walk around and corrupt stuff. He keeps all the shovelheads underground as well where he made them into twisted bestial thralls to use as his foot soldiers if he ever needs such. There’s also a rivalry with a Haitian disease demon of the same order of demons but this is stupid and boring.
The next section is the Temple of Eternal Whispers. This is the Sabbat’s huge communal haven and temple. It’s kind of like your typical D&D dungeon. It’s made of crypts, they have a tree composed of mortals made through a thaumaturgy ritual, and it’s pretty much is a Ravenloft dungeon.
The paths of enlightenment are listed next, who has what, and where the followers meet up. It’s kind of like Oprah’s book club for the damned. Path of enlightenment are essentially the way around playing a character that’s affected by their actions. All characters in vampire begin on the Path of Humanity. When you do stuff that is wrong, you have to roll for the level of sin it is. When you fail at that roll, you lose humanity and can gain derangements. When you reach 0, you become a Wight which is a mindless killing machine. This system is supposed to represent a vampire’s fighting with their beast, the voice in their head that compels them to do bad stuff, and trying to properly represent acts that generally degrade people’s souls like murder and theft for selfish reasons. When you take on a path of enlightenment that becomes your focus in life and you abandon humanity. I’m sure someone at WW thought this was deep and philosophical but that person probably took a philosophy class at the local learning annex.
Vampires who follow the path of Caine try to be like Caine, hate humans, and try to diablerize Camarilla vampires when they can. This path is a way around the whole diablerie taboo thing. Diablerie is a taboo btw because you are consuming the soul of a vampire when you do it and it shows up on your character’s aura when it’s read for a year. Though there are situations where it’s allowed, it’s generally frowned upon because in a society where everyone hates each other, you don’t want to be around the guy who has no qualms with eating the soul of another. It's kind of like being the guy at a new D&D gaming group who pulls out his handgun and puts it on the table. It doesn't matter that you cleared the round from the chamber and took out the magazine. It's still right there on the table.
Vampires who follow the Path of Cathari love corruption and indulging in vices. They’re based on the supposed Cathars of Medieval France, well at least the Catholic Church’s version. There are number of other paths, the Ravnos, Followers of Set, and Giovanni all have their own paths as well. I won’t detail the others because you get the idea.
Paths of Enlightenment are WW's way of allowing players to bypass the moral guidelines setup to enforce “personal horror” and play chaotic stupid killing machines or over the top corrupter characters. Characters essentially abandon their humanity and decide they really like something else better.